Raiders

Michael Crabtree denies revenge game vs. Raiders in return with Ravens

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AP

Michael Crabtree denies revenge game vs. Raiders in return with Ravens

ALAMEDA – Michael Crabtree was as clutch as they come during three seasons with the Raiders, often Derek Carr’s go-to guy even with Amari Cooper in the pattern.

He was vital to the Raiders' rise in 2015 and 2016, with many signature moments to his credit. He caught the do-or-die 2-point conversion to beat New Orleans. He had the “slice of blue” touchdown catch against the Chargers. He had three touchdowns in Baltimore, including a fourth-quarter catch that turned tides there.

He won another dramatic contest in 2017 as well, securing a touchdown catch on an untimed down to beat Kansas City. That was a rare highlight in a season that went awry for the entire team, Crabtree included. His chain-snatching rematch with Aqib Talib late that year wasn’t a great look, and getting four targets and reduced snaps over the last two games suggested the end was near.

Former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon reported on a CBS broadcast late in the year that team officials had informed him the wide receiver was taking himself out of games. Crabtree wasn’t thrilled with his role at times, creating some tension with Carr that the quarterback addressed in an offseason interview with The Athletic.

[RELATED: Derek Carr's aim for Raiders' final six games: Mess up NFL draft order]

Crabtree was eventually cut just before free agency in what was essentially a straight swap for Jordy Nelson, albeit in separate transactions with similar costs.

Crabtree quickly signed with the Ravens, setting up what might be considered a revenge game Sunday in Baltimore.

There is one big problem with that narrative: Crabtree’s willingness to play along. He shot down having any extra motivation against his old team talking to Baltimore reporters on Wednesday.

“We’re on the end of the stretch right here, so every game counts for us,” Crabtree said. “The next game is the Raiders.”

Crabtree was asked if there was any special meaning playing the Silver and Black.

“Nope,” Crabtree said. “I just played football.”

Crabtree was never one to air dirty laundry in the press, but he might enjoy a big statistical day against his old squad.

Carr was complimentary of his former target, whom he routinely called quarterback friendly, despite some periods of friction between him and Crabtree.

[RELATED: Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is holding Derek Carr to high standards]

“I love Crab, oh my goodness. He helped me so much talking scheme, talking the mindset, the leadership, all of those things,” Carr said. “I remember standing around the corner in the hallway begging him not to leave. I promise I’ll throw you the ball, I said. He had two or three of his best, statistically, years of his career. That means a lot to me. I told him ‘I’ll throw it to you’ and knowing him, he probably wanted it more but that’s Crab.

“He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around. I think the world of him. I miss him, I do. I wish him the best. I always keep up on my phone making sure he’s doing well and all that. I really do wish the best for him and his family.”

Crabtree hasn’t reached pre-2017 heights in Baltimore, with 42 catches for 479 yards and just two touchdowns. He has only caught 53.8 percent of his targets, and hasn’t been the red-zone focus he was in Oakland, where he had 25 touchdowns in three seasons.

“We had great chemistry,” Carr said. “We had good moments together on those red zone plays. We had hand signals. Just me looking at him; we were on a good page. That’s something you try to do with all your guys. We played for years together, so it doesn’t just come overnight. I think that every quarterback that has played with him will definitely say he has some of the best hands and is one of the most competitive and reliable people. I have nothing but good things to say.”

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense in 34-14 loss to Vikings

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense in 34-14 loss to Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS – Positives for the Raiders were tough to spot after the Vikings dismantled Oakland 34-14 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Jon Gruden's squad was down three scores after three Vikings series, and results barely got better from there. The Raiders struggled in all three phases of the game, exposing some real weaknesses and showing they aren’t currently on par with an upper-echelon NFL team.

This loss wasn’t due to poor preparation or a litany of major mistakes. The Raiders just got beat -- they were out-executed by a superior team.

Let’s take a look at the Raiders report card from this loss to the Vikings:

Rushing offense

It’s tough to run a ton when you’re down so big so fast. Josh Jacobs only had 10 carries in this one, without much production beyond an 18-yard run. The offensive line had a rough time against Minnesota’s defensive front, with few clean holes to work through.

The Silver and Black had 88 yards on 20 carries, but the backs couldn’t make a significant contribution in this game. Jacobs needed to be a real factor to win this contest, and a negative game script took him out of it.

Grade: C

Passing offense

Derek Carr’s passing line isn’t half bad. He completed 27 of 34 passes for 242, two touchdowns, a pick and a 103.7 passer rating. That doesn’t look bad, but it also doesn’t reflect the passing game’s struggles. They weren’t able to work the ball downfield, with most of Carr’s passes thrown five yards or fewer in the air.

Tyrell Williams wasn’t a real factor. Darren Waller played well as the primary target, but the Raiders couldn’t protect Carr well – Kolton Miller had a rough game – and couldn’t generate the explosive plays required to make a comeback attempt.

Grade: D

Rushing defense

The Raiders' run defense walked into Sunday’s game with heads held high. They left with tails between their legs after Dalvin Cook ran wild for 110 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries. The Vikings churned out 211 yards on 38 carries, and never even passed in the fourth quarter. That’s how dominant the run game was throughout this game, which leaves the defensive front to do some soul searching heading into Week 4.

Grade: F

Passing defense

Kirk Cousins didn’t have to do much to win this game, with Cook running strong and the Raiders unable to score points. The pass rush was non-existent, with Cousins hit just three times and never sacked. Adam Thielen had 55 yards and a touchdown, making safety Curtis Riley look bad on one big play. Free safety is a real issue for this team, and it might require a personnel change.

Grade: C-minus

[RELATED: Raiders defense preaches accountability after ugly loss

Special teams

The Raiders never started a drive beyond their own 25-yard line, and lost the battle for field position. Former Viking Daniel Carlson was booed relentlessly in his first trip back to Minnesota, and it seemed to rattle him on a 51-yard attempt that hit the upright. Dwayne Harris is sorely missed in the kicking game.

Grade: D-minus

Overall

The Raiders just got beat, plain and simple. It was tough to excuse, showing real weaknesses that may crop up against quality competition down the line. There’s plenty to fix but it has to happen fast. A prolonged losing streak could send the season down the drain shortly after it started.

Grade: F

Raiders defense preaches accountability after terrible Week 3 showing

Raiders defense preaches accountability after terrible Week 3 showing

MINNEAPOLIS – The Raiders entered Sunday’s game in Minnesota as the NFL’s fifth-ranked run defense. They’re going to fall far down the list after coming face-to-face with Dalvin Cook.

The explosive running back had 116 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries, the featured piece of a Vikings attack that churned out 211 yards on the ground. The Vikings were so comfortable with a massive lead and an efficient run game that they didn't attempt a pass in the fourth quarter of a 34-14 blowout win at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Raiders only forced two punts. They never took the ball away and couldn’t sack Kirk Cousins.

Defensive leaders took the performance personally. They weren’t downtrodden after a rough showing. They were pissed, and vowed to take immediate action to fix it.

Even if it means some uncomfortable conversations are on the way. Some guys may get called on the carpet this week, with everyone being held accountable for their play.

“It has to be addressed,” defensive end Josh Mauro said. “If it’s uncomfortable, it doesn’t matter because sometimes change is going to be hard. There are a lot of guys who have a lot of pride and put in a lot of work, so feeling comfortable losing like that is unacceptable.”

Mauro and linebacker Tahir Whitehead huddled up after the disappointing loss and discussed that very fact, that this type of performance simply won’t stand. The Raiders believe they’re far better than they showed on Sunday, and won’t tolerate a repeat of what happened here.

“This is something you can’t just move on from,” Whitehead said. “It’s a long road ahead. If we don’t get this corrected, then it is going to be a long season. We need to hold each other accountable and make sure nobody is comfortable after this loss because there is a lot of things that need to be fixed.”

The Raiders weren’t good during a 4-12 season where losing was all too common. Expectations are heightened with an influx of talent through the draft and free agency, and giving up 34 points while getting beat on execution (and a few costly penalties) won’t be tolerated.

“We experienced a long season last year,” Whitehead said. “I am not trying to go through the same thing, and many others on this team will say the same thing. The only way you fix it is by digging deeper. You can’t start pointing fingers because it is a long season. We need to start coming together even tighter, especially being on the road the next few weeks.”

This is the first of five games played away from Oakland. They face Indianapolis next week and head to London immediately for a home game against Chicago. Then comes a bye week followed by game at Green Bay and then Houston.

They’ll go 0-5 during this season-defining stretch if the defense repeats this performance. The veterans understand more is required to get back in the win column.

“Guys are just trying to do too much,” Whitehead said. “This creates gaps in the defense and that’s when big plays happen. We have to get back to the drawing board and make those corrections to move forward. You can’t go out there and keep making the same mistakes over and over again. In this league, you can’t win games when you allow big plays. We need to make sure we are just doing our job.”

[RELATED: Derek Carr believes Raiders' recent offensive woes won't persist long]

Coaches can demand more and hold feet to the fire, but the message also needs to come from inside the locker room.

“It starts with the players,” Mauro said. “The good teams are able to hold each other accountable. We are going to come back and execute a lot better next week.”